During the century covered by this book, Great Britain (or the United Kingdom, as it became on 1 January 1801) changed more rapidly and radically than ever before. The Industrial Revolution turned it into ‘the workshop of the world’. The conquests of the Seven Years War and the Napoleonic Wars won an empire on which the sun never set. Between 1793 and 1815 the number of colonies rose from twenty-six to forty-three. This is all very well known, of course, and has been narrated and analysed with varying degrees of enthusiasm by countless historians.
What Holger Hoock does is offer an account of how contemporaries ‘imagined’ the changes taking place during their lifetime. As Hoock puts it, ‘to think big on the global stage required not only economic strength and military prowess, but manifestly also intellectual, cultural and imaginative effort. As Britain